30 May 2012 – Kandy to Nuwara Eliya
Travel bazaar has a tie up with Luxe Asia from Sri Lanka, who looked after our visit within the country. Mr Duminda our tour driver and guide, works for Luxe Asia. It was our third day with Duminda. Initially we felt intimidated by his huge size, but in a very short span he struck a chord in all of us with his friendly and affable demeanor. The ingredients of a good trip are many – one of them being the attitude of the people with whom we come in contact. To be honest Duminda made the trip for us – extremely helpful and polite, he answered all our silly queries patiently and always with a smile. Besides he took the trouble to introduce us to Sri Lankan food and even got us to gingerly taste a variety of fruit that we hadn’t come across before in India. Most importantly, he drove the vehicle very carefully and never once did we feel concerned about our safety. People like him can create a very favorable impression of the country. Well done, Duminda!
The ordinary Sri Lankans with whom we interacted are extremely respectful and friendly. They view Indians in a very favorable light. Someone I met, went on to thank India for all the support and felt sorry for the death of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi. Throughout our stay we found our interaction with the Sri Lankans very pleasant- polite, friendly and warm - they go out of their way to welcome you and forever one hears ‘Ayubowan’ (may you live long and healthy) derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Ayushman bhava’ meaning the same.
No wonder the National Geographic Traveller Magazine in its press release had declared that “Sri Lanka is one of the six countries that a tourist should visit in the year 2012”
Having covered more than 800 Km on the island roads I can say with conviction that the roads are marked and maintained beautifully. I did not encounter a single ugly speed breaker with which we are so familiar. The absence of speed breakers makes travel all the smoother. In its place they have large yellow zig zag patterns and markings, warning the drivers to exercise caution. The traffic is very disciplined, however low in volume. All the riders wear helmets including children riding pillion. The presence of the Highway police is conspicuous.
Our next place of visit was the hill station Nuwara Eliya. As we drove along from Kandy, the countryside changed very rapidly from a coastal landscape of cultivated fields of coconut plantations and paddy fields to hills and manicured tea estates. All along the way there were local vegetable and fruit shops displaying their wares.
On the way we stopped at a strawberry farm for lunch. There we learnt that the strawberry is not a fruit but an enlarged receptacle of the flower of the plant. Whatever it may be, the huge helping of strawberries with ice-cream was absolutely delicious! J
Figure 2 - Strawberry farm
Figure 6 - The treat
Figure 15 - Kats and Duminda taking a break after a sip of tea
At Nuwara Eliya 30 May to 02 May
According to mythology, Nuwara Eliya figures as a setting in the famed Indian epic Ramayana, narrating the story of the Indian King Rama whose wife, Sita, was robbed by Ravana, King of Lanka. When Hanuman, King Rama’s monkey general came with his army to save Sita, King Ravana retaliated by setting fire to his long tail. It’s said that Hanuman then used his tail to burn down Ravana’s entire magnificent city that is believed to have stood where Nuwara Eliya is today. According to legend, the black soil that forms a top layer in Nuwara Eliya is made up of the ashes of what used to be the city of Ravana.
History says Nuwara Eliya was discovered by a hunting party led by Dr. John Davy in 1818. Sir Edward Barnes was the Governor from 1824-1831. He constructed roads and shelters in Nuwara-Eliya and made it a good place to live and so he is known as "the Father of Nuwara-Eliya”. Later on the city of Nuwara Eliya was developed by Samuel Baker, the discoverer of Lake Albert and the explorer of the Nile in 1846. Nuwara Eliya, called Little England then, was the prime sanctuary of British civil servants and planters in Ceylon.
Our next halt was the theme hotel ‘Heritance Tea Factory’ 23 Km from NE (the word ‘heritance’ being a combination of heritage and inheritance). A bit of history about the place is very important to fully absorb the greatness of the hotel.
The origins of Hethersett
In 1992, Mr G C Wickremasinghe, a Director of Aitken Spence and Company Limited, happened to observe the tea factory through the mist-covered hills. He had a vision of transforming the shell into a unique, luxury hotel.
The idea was brought to fruition through the talent of architect Nihal Bodhinayake. No alterations or additions have been made to the exterior – the windows and woodwork are entirely original as designed by British engineers.
Heritance Tea Factory opened as a hotel in 1996.
I firmly believe that Heritance Tea Factory is an experience by itself. The atmosphere takes you back in time when a day was made up of more than 24 hours, you woke up to the call of chirping birds nearby, hot tea in bed, a hot tub bath, breakfast with eggs, bacon, sausages, hash browns, fresh plantation coffee and a news paper in hand to complete the picture. The period furniture, fire place and glowing embers add to the warmth of the place. The overall ambiance and the hospitality are almost magical and mesmerizing.
The atmosphere is very welcoming; in a short time you feel at home and begin to blend with it. The staff is always there, appearing discretely from the shadows, to meet all your requirements – silent and willing. The atmosphere is somewhere between a 5 star hotel and a very well run club of British Heritage.
The silence in the area is overpowering, barking, chirping and other calls of wild animals can be heard very clearly at night. Time seems to tick slowly defying Albert Einstein’s theories. It takes you back to a time when life was less complicated and easy going, when there was time for poetry, painting and unbridled romance.
We did exactly what one would have done a hundred years back. Laid back and enjoyed the hospitality, took in lung fulls of fresh mountain air, went for long walks in the plantation, ate like pigs, drank like a (oooops) let us not bring it up again and slept like a bear in hibernation – we did read a lot. In short it was one big relaxation. To add to all this indulgence, the weather was great – between 16 * to 24* deg C. The hotel, located at a height of 6500 ft, has a commanding view of the surroundings.
Figure 23 - A very comfortable room with a view
Figure 47 - A very well appointed bar
Figure 48 - Goatfell Bar, which offers more than 20 different types of tea, tea mocktails, Hethersett Fog – a blend of tea, lime juice, angostura bitters and lemonade, topped with a slice of lime and tea leaves
Figure 52 - Visit to the Grand Hotel - Nuwara Eliya